July 29, 2021

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Our 2021-22 Student Contest Calendar

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Note: This calendar is available as a printable PDF.

Tens of thousands of students from around the world participated in our contests during the 2020-21 school year, creating podcasts, writing editorials, making videos, reviewing arts and culture, composing narratives, investigating scientific phenomena, documenting their pandemic experiences, discussing politics and more.

Teachers tell us they value our contests because they invite students to take the skills they learn in school and use them to create for an authentic audience. Students tell us they like the variety of ways they can express themselves — and, of course, the confidence boost when they are recognized for their efforts. For us, these contests deepen our daily mission: to help teenagers engage with what’s happening in the world, and show them that their voices and ideas matter.

All of our usual annual contests are back this year, including an updated edition of last fall’s Coming of Age challenge. And we’ve added something new for next spring: A contest that invites students to research, interview and photograph an interesting person, and then introduce that person in a journalistic profile.

For most contests, we now allow middle school as well as high school students to participate.

As each goes live, we will add a link on this page. For those contests that have run in the past, you can learn more now by clicking on the “Rules and Guidelines” for each, and taking a look at both the related unit and the work of previous student winners.

To find out more about our contests in general, scroll to the bottom of this post. If you have any other questions, please write to us at [email protected] or post a comment here.


Sept. 15-Oct. 27, 2021

The world is just beginning to emerge from a crisis that has challenged and changed all of us. Who are you now? How do you think the last year and a half has shaped — and will continue to shape — you and your generation?

What can you show or tell us that might help explain what it’s like to be a teenager in 2021?

We want to hear your answers to these questions in whatever way you want to respond, whether in words or images, audio or video. Like last fall’s Coming of Age in 2020 Contest, this challenge is an invitation to document, reflect and express yourself creatively on any aspect, big or small, of what it means to be growing up in this extraordinary moment.

For inspiration, take a look at the work of the 2020 winners, and visit the related writing unit.

OCT. 13-NOV. 17, 2021

Write a short, powerful story about a meaningful experience from your life — in 600 words or fewer. Here are last year’s rules. For inspiration, take a look at the work of the 2020 winners, and visit the related writing unit.


Nov. 10-Dec. 15, 2021

Review a book, movie, restaurant, album, theatrical production, video game, dance, TV show, art exhibition or any other kind of work The Times critiques. Here are last year’s rules and guidelines. For inspiration, take a look at the work of the 2020 winners and visit the related writing unit.


Dec. 1, 2021-Jan. 12, 2022

Produce a 15-second video about the meaning of one of our Words of the Day. Here are last year’s rules and guidelines. For inspiration, take a look at the work of the 2020 winners, and check out our smaller monthly challenges that also help students build their vocabulary skills.


Jan. 5-Feb. 16, 2022

Choose an interesting person to research, interview, photograph and write about in a piece modeled on New York Times columns like Character Study and The Saturday Profile. Students may work in pairs.

Coming soon: A full unit, including lesson plans, mentor texts, writing prompts and more, to help walk participants through the process.

JUNE 10-AUG. 19, 2022

Tell us what you’re reading in The Times and why. Each Friday for 10 weeks we post a new invitation like this one, and you post a comment in response. Here are this year’s rules and guidelines. For inspiration, take a look at the work of past winners and the related writing unit.


Throughout the school year we run additional challenges to inspire and celebrate students. Our monthly Vocabulary Challenges encourage students to build their vocabulary knowledge, and our weekly Current Events Conversations encourage students to submit comments in response to our writing prompts.

Sept. 2021-May 2022

Our first yearlong slate of Vocabulary Challenges invites students to engage with words through writing, drawing and video production, and to connect vocabulary words to the things they read about in the paper and observe in their own lives. Visit our calendar of monthly Vocabulary Challenges to learn more.

Sept. 2021-May 2022

We invite students to react to the news via our daily writing prompts, and each week we publish a selection of their comments in a roundup for the world to read. Plus, we give a shout-out to new schools that join the conversation.


Why do we run so many contests? We believe in student voice. We want young people to be active content creators, not just consumers. And we’re proud to offer places where they can create for an authentic audience of students, teachers, parents and other readers from around the world.

Here’s how they work:

  • All of our contests except one are open to students ages 11 to 19 who are in middle school or high school around the world. For students in the United States, we consider middle school to begin in sixth grade. Students in lower grades cannot participate.

    Please note our one exception: Because its focus is teenagehood, Coming of Age in 2021 is open only to those who are 13 to 19 years old, though participants can join from anywhere in the world.

  • All contests except Summer Reading begin and end on Wednesdays. On the day each contest begins, we will add a link here, on this page, to the contest announcement so students and teachers can submit entries.

  • The work students send us is always considered by our staff and other experts, whether they’re Times journalists, outside educators from partner organizations or professional practitioners in a related field. For example, we have members of the Times podcast team help judge our podcast contest and Opinion writers and editors help judge our editorial contest. Judging for our contests is blind. That means we see only the entries themselves, and not student names or schools when we make our decisions.

  • About eight weeks after the contest closes, we’ll announce the winners, runners-up and honorable mentions. We usually celebrate dozens of students for each contest.

  • Winners get their work published on The Learning Network. Some may also be featured in a special section of the print New York Times.

  • Our contests are an integral component of our free school-year writing curriculum, which offers daily writing activities, mentor texts and related lesson plans to prepare students for each contest.

  • Please read our additional eligibility rules (for example, about students taking a gap year) and submission rules (for example, about plagiarism) on this page.

Want to make sure you don’t miss a contest announcement? Sign up for our free weekly newsletter, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

We can’t wait to see what students create this school year!

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